Legendary Canadian Broadcaster Johnny Esaw dead at 87

Johnny Esaw (middle, with Scott Young and Trent Frayne), who was known as the voice of the CFL for...

Johnny Esaw (middle, with Scott Young and Trent Frayne), who was known as the voice of the CFL for years in Canada, has died.

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:16 PM ET

Bill Stephenson remembers the conversation like it was yesterday. It was only 52 years ago: He walked in and said You know what were going to do. Were going to televise figure skating.

And a lot of us thought, how crazy is that? We thought What a disaster that will be, said Stephenson, the legendary Toronto broadcaster. Nobody thought you could put figure skating on TV and succeed. But that was Johnny. Nobody thought the way he did.

Johnny Esaw, one of the engaging pioneers of sports television in North America, a man who changed the very landscape of the business, passed away Saturday after respiratory complications. He was 87. A longtime broadcaster turned broadcast executive, Esaw is considered one of the most significant figures in the history of Canadian sports broadcasting.

He was a visionary, said Stephenson. He changed the way we look at sports in this country.

It wasnt just figure skating that Esaw brought to North American television. He was the first network executive to have significant interest in international hockey. He was the first to make the Canadian Football League mainstream programming. He was the first to understand the true value of Olympic sports as a television product in Canada. He did business with the fledgling American network, ABC, to bring Wide World of Sports and the Indianapolis 500 to Canadian programming on weekend afternoons.


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